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Culture > Entertainment

TikTok vs. Instagram Reels: Which is Better?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bentley chapter.

For the longest time, I’ve prided myself for ‘not being on TikTok.’ I would constantly brag to friends who were addicted to the app that I was not a user – sure I had used it in the past, but I had deleted TikTok years ago. I was pretty proud of myself – I, a female college student in my 20s, was not using my generation’s arguably most popular form of social media. It wasn’t until this year that I finally fell off my high horse into the pit that is Instagram Reels.

Introduced in the summer of 2020, Instagram Reels was quickly seen as TikTok’s lame younger sibling. With less effects, filters, and creators, Instagram Reels was not popular from the start. With quotes from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerburg, he admitted that he was “[adapting] features” from competitors, aka TikTok. And this did not go unnoticed – I remember when Instagram Reels first came out, my friends could not stop hating on it and no one was making the switch from TikTok. I, along with many others, thought Instagram Reels would be such a failure but surprisingly, it has become more popular in recent years.

With a similar format to TikTok’s For You Page, Instagram users can watch Reels by clicking on thumbnails previews within their Explore Page. From there, you can scroll endlessly, like and comment on your favorite Reels, and DM Reels to your friends. Similar to TikTok, you can also filter your feed and tailor it to your preferences by rating your interest on certain videos and blocking Reels from certain accounts or that contain certain words. And creating on Instagram Reels is also similar to TikTok – with a growing array of capabilities, Instagram Reels has become the perfect place for edited montages, fashion reviews, and hot takes (accompanied by a very split comment section).

It’s crazy to me how people react to Instagram Reels now. They used to be hated by loyal TikTok users but now, I’ve met increasingly more people who are Reels fans like me. But this isn’t the first time that Instagram has experienced a public turn around regarding one of their new features. I remember when Instagram stories were introduced, everyone thought it was the weirdest thing because they were clearly copying Snapchat stories. I remember thinking that no one was ever going to use Instagram stories while Snapchat still existed but within a few years, Instagram stories became the hub for reposting others’ content, wishing your friends a happy birthday, or sharing scenic updates while traveling. 

But the question still remains: which is better, Instagram Reels or TikTok? Well, I think it’s up to the user.

I know when I used to use TikTok, I had a lot of fun experimenting with popular sounds and filters – something you see less of on Instagram Reels. I also liked the community of creators on TikTok – it’s not hard to think of a famous TikToker but do famous Instagram ‘Reelers’ even exist? And don’t even get me started on the TikTok comment section – I swear, sometimes the comments are funnier than the video itself.

On the other hand, I think what makes Instagram Reels stand out is the content. I associate TikTok with average users who’s videos go viral because whatever happened in it was so insane or hilarious or heartwarming. In comparison to Instagram Reels, I find my Reels feed to be more informative. I often stumble upon Reels that show off upcoming fashion trends, hair and makeup tutorials, and the occasional recipe. I think part of this is also due to the fact that Instagram Reels allow for a large caption while most TikToks have a short caption, if any at all. Thus, I find that a lot of Instagram Reels introduce an interesting topic and continue the conversation in the caption and comment section, making Instagram Reels a more thoughtful social media tool.

However, one major downfall to Instagram Reels is its relevance. A lot of my friends who use TikTok are always making jokes related to TikTok trends or listening to songs that were made popular on the app. Not being on TikTok myself, this usually leaves me in the dark and super late to trends when I do finally learn about them. But this doesn’t mean that trends don’t eventually make their way over to Instagram Reels – it just takes a little bit more time. It didn’t take long for Reels about girl math, Roman empires, and chrome nails to start showing up on my Explore Page. 

But don’t get me wrong – I think TikTok is an amazing app, just for different functions. For example, I think TikTok’s search engine is one of the best out there. When it comes to finding the hottest new bars and restaurants in the area, I always find myself turning to TikTok to find montages of others’ experiences. 

At the end of the day, I don’t think that Instagram Reels are necessarily worse or better than TikToks – I think they both have their nuances and with those, both apps are able to cater to a huge audience of users. More importantly, I think we should take this debate as a sign to not underestimate social media. Who would have thought that Instagram Stories would become a staple feature on Instagram? And who knew that Musical.ly would turn into one of the most used apps by our generation? What’s next – are Instagram Notes going to be the next big thing? All we can do is wait and see but in the meantime, you have two great apps to keep you busy!

Hi everyone! My name is Banmai Huynh and I am from Chelmsford, MA. I'm a Corporate Finance and Accounting major at Bentley University in Waltham, MA and I’m the President of our Her Campus Chapter. I joined Her Campus because I think it's a great creative outlet for college students. I like writing about my personal experiences, opinions, and recommendations! Thanks for reading!